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Kenan Institute 2022 Annual Theme: Stakeholder Capitalism
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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues

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As a magnet for both population and employment growth, North Carolina has a propitious opportunity to create an inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial and small business ecosystem to support the state’s newfound prosperity.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and his family will transfer ownership of the company – valued at roughly $3 billion – to two newly created environmental trusts. In this Kenan Commentary, we ask four questions to determine how Chouinard’s move fits into the framework of the institute’s annual theme, stakeholder capitalism, and whether a better comparison is the laudable but more common idea of an altruistic business owner.

Stakeholder Capitalism

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Professor Camelia Kuhnen was among a group of economists who answered questions for a survey on stakeholder capitalism by the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Considering one statement – “Effective mechanisms for boards of directors to ensure that CEOs act in ways that balance the interests of all stakeholders would be straightforward to introduce” – Kuhnen objected strongly

A last-minute deal averted a rail strike last week, but it highlights how staffing shortages in the industry as well as in education, hospitality and healthcare are pushing workers to push back, writes The Washington Post. Jobs with long hours and rigid schedules that lack competitive pay and benefits are proving the most difficult to fill, Director of Research Paige Ouimet said. “Running your workers like this – asking them to do 20, 30 percent more because you’re short staffed – it’s very much a short-term strategy,” Ouimet said. “You’re going to keep losing people.”

A new personal gift from Bruce Van Saun, Citizens Financial Group Inc. chairman and CEO, and his wife, Kathleen (Katie) Van Saun, will support the Kenan Institute’s annual grand challenge. Starting in 2023, the three-year gift will support the institute’s Distinguished Fellows, who advance thought leadership around the grand challenge’s theme, a key issue that affects business and society. The program is making its debut this year with an exploration of stakeholder capitalism and ESG investing. The Van Sauns earned their MBAs from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in 1983 and were married in 1985.

Labor force participation rose in July and again in August, providing the Federal Reserve a victory in its efforts to boost participation rates closer to pre-pandemic levels, Barron’s reports. Rising prices may be sending some people back to the job market, Chief Economist Gerald Cohen told the publication. “There are help wanted signs everywhere and so you can get to the point where [people] are saying, look there are opportunities out there and let me go take advantage of them,” he said.

North Carolina’s 100 counties have experienced an uneven pattern of growth and development over the past decade or so, even during the pandemic, when the state was a magnet for migration. At one end, metropolitan and amenity-rich counties captured most of the growth between April 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021; at the other, 21 counties experienced net out-migration. Given these disparities, the Urban Investment Strategies Center offers an approach using targeted economic development strategies.

The cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Raleigh and Durham jumped 6% in a month as the area continues to attract new residents, according to a WRAL TechWire report. Rising prices are an indication of an undersupply in homes for rent or sale, said institute Chief Economist Gerald Cohen, adding that this “suggests that the risks of a significant drop in housing is quite low.”

Post 2020 Census population estimates covering the first fifteen months of the pandemic are analyzed. The results reveal COVID-19’s impact on the geo-demography of the state, highlight disturbing demographic trends, and raise pressing questions requiring immediate policy attention if North Carolina is to remain attractive as a place to live, work, play, and do business.

Small-business owners say they’re just beginning to recover from the sudden blow that hobbled many of them during the early 2020 pandemic restrictions. Now mixed economic messages have them wondering what to do next, according to a Washington Post story. “There is so much that’s up in the air, and uncertainty affects small businesses much more so than it does larger ones,” said institute Director of Research Paige Ouimet.

July employment numbers suggest that the economy isn’t heading into recession but instead is accelerating as the third quarter begins, Chief Economist Gerald Cohen said during the institute’s monthly economic briefing Aug. 5. “It’s still post-COVID recovery, but … we’ve surpassed the pre-COVID levels by 32,000,” Cohen said, as reported by the Triangle Business Journal.